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A STORY ABOUT A REAL MAN                                                                29
huge forest had a good and bad side. The good side was
that he was unlikely to meet any Germans here, for they
usually kept to the roads and towns. The bad side was
that his route, though not long, was very difficult; he
would have to push through dense undergrowth, and was
not likely to meet with human aid, to get shelter, a crust
of bread, or a cup of something warm to drink. His
feet.... Would they carry him? Would he be able to
walk? ...
He rose slowly from the bear's carcass. Again he
felt that acute pain starting from his feet and shooting
over his whole body from the bottom up. A cry of agony
escaped his lips and he sat down again. He tried to remove
his fur boots, but they would not budge; with every tug
he uttered a groan. Clenching his teeth and shutting his
eyes tight he wrenched one of the boots off with both
his hands—and at once lost consciousness. When he came
to he carefully unwound the foot cloth. The foot had
swelled and it looked like one whole, livid bruise. It
burned and ached in every joint. He rested his foot on
the snow and the pain subsided somewhat. With a
similar desperate wrench, as if he were pulling one of his
own teeth, he removed the other boot.
Both his feet were useless. Evidently, when he was
thrown out of the cockpit of his aircraft, something must
have caught his feet and shattered the bones of the instep
and toes. Under ordinary circumstances, of course, he
would not have dreamed of attempting to stand up on
feet in such a frightful condition. But he was alone in
the depths of a virgin forest, in the enemy's rear, where
to meet a human being meant not relief, but death. So
he resolved to push on, eastward, through the forest,
making no attempt to seek convenient roads or human
habitation; to push on at all costs.
He resolutely got up from the bear's carcass, gasped,
ground his teeth and took the first step. He stood for
an instant, tore the other foot from the snow and took
another step. Noises filled his head, and the glade swayed
and floated away.
Alexei felt himself growing weaker from exertion and
pain. Biting his lips, he continued to push on and reached
a forest road that ran past a wrecked tank, past the dead